The New Zealand Rugby Union have announced the new domestic rugby competitions structure to be launched next year.
The new structure consists of a 10-team Premier Division, a six-team Division One and a 10-team Heartland competition with the Premier Division teams to be determined at the completion of their year's Air New Zealand Cup.
There will be automatic promotion-relegation between the Premier Division and Division One, while further consideration will be given to promotion-relegation between the Division One and Heartland competitions.
Other features of the new competitions include a common window for domestic competitions allowing for the involvement of Super Rugby players, a protected club window, a single national finals day across all three competitions and a guarantee of four or five home games per team.
The new competitions were adopted by the NZRU board at a special meeting on Saturday and follow a series of workshops involving New Zealand's 26 provincial unions, Super 14 franchises, and the New Zealand Rugby Players' Association.
NZRU chairman Jock Hobbs said the announcement was an important step in resolving the sustainability issues and uncertainty which had hampered the success of the Air New Zealand Cup.
"We had a very clear message from our provincial unions earlier this year that change was necessary and that we needed to act quickly and decisively," Hobbs said.
"With the support and involvement of our Provincial Unions, we have done that, and believe this structure is one which meets the competition principles which New Zealand's rugby collective decided were important."
A Solvency Test and Assessable Criteria, as agreed to by participating Air New Zealand Cup provincial unions, will be used to determine the 10 unions that will participate in the Premier Division in 2010 with the remaining four unions playing in Division One in 2010.
This will include 2009 on and off-field results with the assessment taking place on November 20.
NZRU chief executive Steve Tew said the board recognised the announcement of the new competitions had the potential to generate some anxiety for provincial unions and their supporters.
"The clear message from Provincial Unions was that we needed to act sooner rather than later on implementing changes and creating certainty in terms of our domestic competitions."
Tew said that once the assessments have been completed, the NZRU will work closely with those affected unions, including those seeking inclusion from the Heartland Championship, on establishing themselves in the new Division One competition to ensure that competition is meaningful, sustainable, attractive and aspirational.
"There is still work to be carried out on a number of the details relating to this new structure, but we can now do that with certainty about the new competition structure and with a definite timeline to work towards 2010."
Domestic rugby competitions structure
* A Premier Division comprising 10 teams with a round robin, semis and a final and automatic promotion/relegation between the Premier and Division One competitions.
* A Division One competition comprised of six teams with four teams being those teams ranked 11 to 14 from the current Air New Zealand Cup competition and two teams coming up from the Heartland Competition. This would be played using a home and away format with a final. The winner of the final being automatically promoted.
* A Heartland competition which would comprise 10 teams with a round robin, semis and a final. Further consideration is to be given to whether there should be promotion-relegation between the Heartland competition and Division one and if so, what form it will take.
Predict what the top 10 teams will look like .